What is an LED Driver? – Complete Buyers Guide

By LED Lighthouse

Lighting has transformed our lives, enhancing aesthetics and offering functionalities that redefine modern living. As we continue to innovate, lighting technologies have advanced from simple bulbs to more efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

As lifestyles evolve, so does our reliance on effective lighting solutions. Whether it’s creating mood lighting for a cosy night in or illuminating a workspace, the right lighting is essential. LED lights, particularly when combined with the appropriate LED driver, offer versatility and efficiency unparalleled by traditional lighting methods.

What is an LED Driver?

An LED driver is a self-contained power supply that regulates the power of an LED or a string of LEDs. Its primary role is to convert input power into a suitable voltage and current to ensure the lights function optimally.

Understanding LEDs

LEDs are semiconductors that emit light when current flows through them. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, they are energy-efficient, have a longer lifespan, and offer a broader spectrum of colours.


LED Driver Diagram


How LED Drivers Work and Their Significance in Current Control

To achieve optimum performance, LEDs require a specific current and voltage. This is where the LED driver comes into play, an essential component to drive LED lights effectively.

LEDs are sensitive to the amount of current they receive. Too much can damage or reduce their lifespan, while too little can compromise their efficiency and brightness. Proper current control ensures a consistent and long-lasting lighting experience.

How Does an LED Driver Differ from a Normal Power Supply?

While both deliver power, an LED driver specifically provides a constant current to LEDs, regardless of voltage fluctuations. This is crucial for LED strips, as they consist of multiple LEDs. An LED strip driver guarantees each LED receives the ideal power.

Types of LED Drivers:

1.) Constant Current Drivers:

Constant current drivers, as their name indicates, are specifically designed to deliver a steady current, guaranteeing that the LED consistently emits an unwavering light output. This dedicated flow ensures a couple of key benefits: firstly, it provides a uniform brightness level which is a huge benefit in many applications; secondly, it considerably prolongs the lifespan of the LED, ensuring that users get maximum value from their LED installations

However, they come with their set of challenges. These drivers offer limited flexibility, especially when it comes to connecting a diverse range of LEDs. Therefore, their ideal application is in setups where there’s a specific LED configuration, and changes to the number or type of LEDs are not anticipated.

2.) Constant Voltage Drivers:

Differing from their constant current counterparts, constant voltage drivers are committed to providing a set voltage. This characteristic makes them particularly advantageous when several LEDs are connected in parallel configurations. One of their standout advantages is their flexibility: users can easily add or remove LEDs without major complications. But this flexibility does present a potential drawback. 

If the LED setup isn’t accurately paired with the driver, there can be noticeable variances in brightness. Given their inherent attributes, these drivers are often the first choice for powering LED strips, where multiple LEDs operate in tandem.

3.) AC LED Drivers:

AC LED drivers stand out because they can power LEDs directly from an AC power source. This direct conversion simplifies the design and negates the need for an external converter, making installations tidier and often more straightforward.

However, everything could be clearer. When compared to their DC counterparts, they don’t boast the same level of efficiency. Typical applications for AC LED drivers can be found in many households, especially in integrated LED fixtures.

4.) DC LED Drivers:

When powering LEDs from a direct current (DC) source, DC LED drivers come into their own. Renowned for their efficiency and versatility, they have two primary advantages: they excel in energy conversion, ensuring that most of the power is used effectively, and their design flexibility makes them suitable for a myriad of applications. 

The trade-off, however, is that they typically need an external power supply to function, adding to the complexity of the setup. You’ll commonly find these drivers in portable LED gadgets, as well as in products that are powered by batteries.

5.) Dimmable LED Drivers:

A significant evolution in LED technology has been the ability to control brightness, and dimmable LED drivers are at the forefront of this revolution. Whether you’re in the market for a 12v dimmable LED driver or a 24v variant, the underlying principle is consistent: they adjust the LED’s output by varying the current. This functionality allows users to set the perfect ambiance, as well as achieve potential energy savings. 

A caveat to consider is their compatibility; not all dimmable drivers will work seamlessly with every dimming technology out there. However, where they truly shine (pun intended) is in scenarios where mood lighting is essential, or in spaces where the light’s intensity needs frequent adjustments, like living rooms or entertainment areas.

How do Dimming LEDs work?

Dimming adjusts the LED’s brightness by modulating its output. This can be achieved through pulse-width modulation (PWM) or by reducing the constant current supplied.

Compatible Dimming Technologies

For dimmable drivers, ensure compatibility with the dimming technology you plan to use, such as TRIAC, DALI, or 0-10V systems.

Which LED Driver Do I Need?

When setting up LED lighting, your choice of LED driver is as crucial as the LEDs themselves. Let’s delve deeper into the various factors that can influence this decision, ensuring that your LED setup operates efficiently and lasts for years.

– Assess Your Lighting Needs:

Before diving into technical specifics, start by pinpointing your primary lighting purpose. Is your aim to create a calm ambience in a lounge or to light up a workspace? Different lighting purposes might need different drivers. For instance, mood lighting in a lounge or restaurant may greatly benefit from a 24v dimmable LED driver, which offers both adaptability in brightness and the subtle nuances required for creating an atmosphere.

– Determine the Total Wattage:

It’s vital to understand the combined power consumption of all your LEDs. This gives you a baseline when selecting your driver. Always opt for an LED driver whose maximum wattage exceeds the total wattage of your lights. This safety buffer ensures the driver isn’t constantly operating at its limit, which can affect longevity.

– Understand the Wiring Configuration:

LEDs can be wired in multiple ways – series or parallel being the most common. Series configurations might best benefit from constant current drivers, as they ensure each LED gets the same current. Conversely, parallel configurations, like those commonly seen in LED strips, often require constant voltage drivers. Your choice should reflect this underlying structure.

– Check for Dimming Capabilities:

Dimming isn’t just a luxury feature; for many, it’s a necessity. If you require varying light intensities, ensure your LED driver supports dimming functionalities. However, take note: not every dimmable LED driver meshes well with all dimming technologies. Always check for compatibility, especially if you already have a dimming system in place.

– Protection Features:

LEDs, while robust in many ways, are sensitive to certain conditions like surges or overheating. Choosing drivers that come with built-in protective measures against over-voltage, over-current, and thermal anomalies can be a game-changer. This not only extends the life of the driver but also offers added security to your LEDs.

– Consider Environmental Conditions:

Location matters. An LED setup beside a pool, for instance, has different requirements than one inside a living room. If your LEDs will face outdoor conditions, humidity, or potential water exposure, waterproof or moisture-resistant drivers become indispensable.

– Size and Placement:

LED drivers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Depending on your intended location—be it inside a cabinet, behind a fixture, or in a concealed panel—size and design can influence your choice. Consider the dimensions and the aesthetics of the driver, especially if it will be in a visible location.

– Consult LED Specifications:

LED manufacturers often provide valuable guidelines or driver recommendations. These aren’t mere suggestions; they’re based on extensive testing and can provide a clear pathway to optimal performance.

– Future-Proofing:

Your current needs might evolve. Perhaps you’ll want more lights during a renovation or a redesign. When selecting a driver, consider any future changes you might make to your LED setup. A driver with some extra capacity can save costs in the long run.


LED Drivers Power Supplies - Button

Installation and Safety Tips

Proper Ventilation and Placement: LED drivers can generate heat. Ensure they are placed in well-ventilated areas to prevent overheating.

Avoiding Circuit Overloading: Always ensure that the sum of all connected LED wattages doesn’t exceed the driver’s capacity.

Ensuring Waterproofing (for Outdoor Applications): If you’re installing LEDs outdoors, ensure your driver is waterproof or adequately protected from the elements.

Considerations for DIY vs. Professional Installation: While many enthusiasts choose DIY installations, professional installations are recommended for complex setups or if you’re unsure about the process.


LED Drivers and Sustainability

LEDs and their drivers play a pivotal role in sustainable living. Efficient LED driving reduces energy consumption, leading to less strain on power grids and a lower carbon footprint. Over time, the energy savings, coupled with the long lifespan of LEDs, result in significant economic and environmental benefits.



Is an LED driver necessary?

Yes, for most LED applications, an LED driver is essential to provide optimal current and voltage.

Is an LED driver just a transformer?

No. While both regulate power, an LED driver specifically caters to the unique needs of LEDs.

Is an LED driver just a power supply?

Not exactly. Though they both supply power, an LED driver ensures the correct current and voltage for LEDs, which is essential for their performance and longevity.

Should I use an LED driver or a transformer?

For LED lighting, an LED driver is recommended as it caters specifically to LED requirements.

Are all LED drivers dimmable?

No, only specific models offer dimming capabilities.

Can you dim a constant current LED driver?

Yes, provided it’s designed with dimming capabilities. Always check product specifications.

LED Driver Calculator

By LED Lighthouse

Try our LED Driver calculator to work out the size of the LED power supply required for your LED installation.

More Resources

By LED Lighthouse

Below are a few useful guides to helping you choose the right LED lighting for you project. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

About LED Lighthouse

Specialist supplier of quality LED lighting

Established in 2011, we are dedicated to supplying quality LED lighting at an affordable price. We offer LED Lights and components from some of the best manufacturers including Integral, Samsung, Epistar, Meanwell and Ltech.
Due to customer demand, in recent years we've grown to specialise in LED Strip Lights and associated parts, developing many of our own products.